Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Satisfying His Craving For Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup

2 days ago my husband was watching an annual beef noodle competition on a Taiwanese TV channel from our satellite disk. At one time I was passing him by and when he saw me walking, he told me how much he miss eating beef noodle and just like that I said " Okay, tomorrow I will cook your favorite beef noodle ".

So the next day I went to Papaya, a grocery store near my son's school because anyway I need to go to his school because he has a school performance where I need to video taped and take pictures too.

See here, to cook a good beef noodle you have to be daring. Dare to spent time and money to make it if not effort. To make it is simple enough luckily. The key to a good beef noodle is the broth, and to make a good broth, you need lots of stuff in your soup and a lot of time to cook it with a very small fire. I happen to have a big Le Creuset Stock Pot and since making this dish need a lot of time to cook I might as well make a large batch of it. I am too lazy to go down to my kitchen to check if my stock pot size is 12 Qt. or 16 Qt. I am guessing mine is the 12 Qt. When I made beef noodle I will fill up the whole stock pot to the brim.

For this size of stock pot I will buy : 1 kg beef shank cut into large chunks, 1 kg of ox tail , 1 kilogram of beef tripe cut into large chunks too, about half a kilogram of
beef tendons. That alone will fill up about 40% of the stock pot volume. Then add to this is the seasoning.

For seasoning I will use about 15 cloves of garlic, 10 green onions cut into large chunks, 10 slices of ginger, 3 Tbs of Szechuan peppercorns, 2 bottles of Chili Bean Paste ( Doubanjiang ), 1/2 cup of oil, 8 star anise, 1 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup of rice wine, salt as needed. Then off course you need noodles, some bok choy, and if you have salted mustard or sour mustard preferably the one without leaves ( you want the stalk that will be crunchier ) you can also chopped them up and then sprinkle them on top of your beef noodles for extra crunch. I wash it first with water to make them less salty.

Since I know not everybody need to feed as many people as I do here I will give you the original recipe for this dish.

Sichuan Style Beef Noodle

Ingredients:

1.2 kg beef ( chuck or flank )
5 garlic cloves
5 green onions
5 slices ginger
3 star anise
1 Tbs brown Sichuan peppercorns
1/3 cup oil

Seasoning Sauce:

3 Tbs chili bean sauce/paste
1/2 Cup soy sauce
2 Tbs wine
1/2 Tbs salt

Methods:

  1. Cut the beef into 1 1/2" squares and cook for 1/2 minute in boiling water, remove and drain.
  2. Heat 1/2 cup of oil to stir-fry garlic cloves, add the peppercorns, star anise, and chili bean paste, stir-fry for a while. Add soy sauce, wrap all the ingredients in a piece of cheesecloth. Stir-fry beef in sauce for 1 minute. Add the cheesecloth pack and water to about 2" above beef. Cook for 1 1/2 hour until beef is soft.
  3. Season it with salt.
  4. Cook the noodles and bok choy separately.
  5. You can put on the noodle soup : 1 Tbs of chopped green onion, 1/2 tsp sesame oil and do like I did, sprinkle some chopped sour mustard on top of the soup for each individual bowl of noodle soup.
To be honest with you my way is a bit different from this original recipe. To give more body to the soup beside using more variety of meat in it, this is the different step that I do when I cook this dish:

When I make the seasoning. I stir-fry the seasonings into 2 steps. First I stir-fry garlic, ginger, green onion and then the peppercorns first. Then I put them into a cloth bag so that the soup will not be messy. Then using the same oil that is still left on the wok, I stir fry the chili bean paste. Then I put this chili bean paste and some of the water for the soup into my blender. I blend them until they are very very smooth and then I pour it into my soup pot that already has the seasoning cloth bag ( with garlic, ginger, green onions, and peppercorns in it ), the already blanched meat pieces. Add more water until it almost reach the top of the stock pot. Then I add the rice wine and the soy sauce. I let the soup simmer with the lowest heat so that they never boil over for at least 8 hours! The longer you cook it the better. Oh yes I forgot to tell you that cook the tendon only at the last 3 hours of the cooking time because they are more easily to get tender than the other meat. By at least 8 hours ( you can cook it for 12 hrs! ), all those meat will be so soft, the meat will almost fall off the bone ( ox tail ) and you will have a very flavorful broth for your soup. They will be so flavourful that even after all the meats are gone, you will not mind to eat your noodle with just the soup. They are really good.

So the key to cook this dish is really lots of meats and bones and time. The perfect tool to make this dish maybe the slow cooker.

My husband comment on my Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup was " No wonder I can not loose some weight, the food you make is always so good, better than most of the beef noodles soup that I have ever eaten in Taipei! ".... with that kind of comment , now can you understand why I love cooking for him very much?

To accompany this dish, I also create my own recipe for the appetizer.

On the same time when I bought the ingredients for the beef noodle soup, I also bought fried tofu that look almost like oily tofu that Taiwanese people like to eat. They are almost like deep fried tofu but they are a bit softer. This is what I did with the tofu that I buy.


Yohana's Tofu

Ingredients:

2 squares of tofu ( if you can get already fried is better, it is easier to cook )
1 Cup of chicken stock
1 Tbs of sesame oil
1 tsp of finely minced garlic
2 Tbs of soy paste or soy sauce
a dash of ground white pepper
1 tsp of rice wine
2 tsp of sugar
3 tsp of cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbs of water to make cornstarch slurry

Some chopped red chilies , green onions, and cilantro

Methods:

  1. On a medium-hot wok, pour the sesame oil then add minced garlic. Stir fry the garlic for just few seconds then add the chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, white pepper and salt as needed.
  2. Add the tofu into the soup and cook the tofu for about 10 minutes with heat on low.
  3. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir to mix until the soup thicken.
  4. Take the tofu out and place them on a plate. Pour the sauce on top then sprinkle on top of the tofu some chopped red chilies, green onions and cilantro. Serve.
EXTRA STORY:

When we were in Taipei this summer, we found a restaurant that won second place at the Annual Beef Noodle Contest. I have to admit that their broth is very good and I like to use large chunk of meat in the soup, that is why I wrote "large chunks" on my recipe above. Their beef noodle soup is very generous. They gave a lot of meat pieces and they are cut from the best part. I took a picture of my beef noodle bowl. Here it is ...

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